The Japanese in Hawaii

The Hawaiians believe fishermen washed ashore by typhoons were the first Japanese in the islands.

In 1868, approximately 150 men and women of various prefectures (areas) and differing backgrounds arrived in Hawaii from Yokohama harbor and became known as the Gannen Mono, or the “first year men.”

Japan blocked further migration until 1885, when an amicable agreement was sanctioned. In February of that year, nearly 900 Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawai’i. Most were young men intent on making their fortunes and returning to Japan with status and wealth.

These immigrants known as the Issei, the first generation, were the first of thousands to follow. They settled on Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and Hawaii island and most did not return to Japan. By 1924, Japanese constituted over 40% of the population.

Picture bride marriages were arranged to continue Japanese family culture in Hawaii. However, family lines were altered in Japan. Some Japanese inter-married changing family lineage as well.

The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 at the advent of World War II caused an impactful and permanent change for the Japanese-American family.

After the war, Japanese-Americans were committed to rebuilding their lives and provide a secure and rewarding lifestyle in the islands. Educational levels rose and through economic and political growth and expansion, they were able to adapt and acquire positions of merit in the government and in society.

Today, Hawaiian-American Japanese play major political, social and community roles while continuing to have respect for their Japanese lineage, customs and culture.

Knowing where your ancestors hail from can unfold an interesting and diverse history full of pride, honor and respect to perpetuate for the future.

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”

James Baldwin

One search summary

I began my personal genealogy research after my father’s death. My Uncle Shiro from Nara, Japan gave me a scroll of the Okuyama (paternal grandmother) family history with several generations that hinted at lineage to Munemori of the Heike clan. This really sparked my interest and I started reading a lot of Japanese history and topic books.

More recently, my sister discovered a kakocho (death record) of the Ikezawa (father) side written by my grandfather, Reverend Shuntaro Benjamin Ikezawa for my dad, Andrew Takahiko Ikezawa.

Over the past three years I have done more extensive research with my relatives in Japan, Hawaii and US mainland, the Internet, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Research Center, the American Japanese National Museum and the Japan Hawaii Center in Hilo, Hawaii.

The names, dates and information from the scroll and kakucho led to applications for documents and official records from the Japanese Consulate of Hawaii, the Hawaii Department of Health and University of Hawaii Libraries and to conversations with various members of the Good Samaritan Church in Palolo.

The applications required proof of family lineage, mostly through great-grandparent only. But, actually to grandparent with my parents birth certificate. In one case, the Japanese city office required a proof of residence by utility bill as well as marriage certificate.

Even with these documents, all of this searching took a large investment of time, paperwork filing, monetary fees and postage.

I am so delighted to present Japan Hawaii Roots as a more convenient, one-stop shop and direct method of research.

Search Japan Hawaii Roots on YouTube.com and see a video of my journey to the islands of my great-grandparents (maternal side). A similar journey can be arranged for you too!